Happy Monday, Reader! Today I’m happy to host Julie Moore’s next big thing (in fact, I just accidentally posted it without any content — so apologies for e-mail clutter to those of you who are subscribers). Now, let me try this again:
What is your working title of your book (or story)? Particular Scandals.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Simply put, Particular Scandals explores the anthropology of my home, the theology of suffering, and the ecology of the Midwestern landscape in which I live.
Where did the idea come from for the book? The idea truly sprung from necessity. My first book, Slipping Out of Bloom, details a year of intense pain stemming from a problem that mystified many doctors. When I finally found a doctor who properly diagnosed me and treated the problem effectively, I thought that I’d finished writing about suffering, at least my own suffering.
But then came three more surgeries, two of which were major, making seven surgeries in all and four organs lost at that point (but none cancer-related), and my husband’s sudden and shocking blockage in his right coronary artery. And the poems just kept coming. They helped me endure, and really, that’s become the theme of the book: endurance.
I worked very hard to avoid two clichés—on the one hand, wallowing in pain and a la Job’s wife, cursing God, and on the other hand, transcending suffering, as if one’s physical reality doesn’t really matter. Day to day, I wasn’t transcending it; day to day, I felt like I’d become the incarnation of pain and grief and frightening uncertainty. But I wasn’t shaking my fists at God either.
My first book chronicled how my year of intractable pain likewise inflicted great spiritual crisis, but I somehow felt beyond that particular point as I was writing poems for this book. I was anxious, frightened, confused, and mostly overwhelmed that so many difficult—and at times, life-threatening—health problems could plague my husband and me in our early forties. Yet, I wasn’t asking why any more. I was learning to bear doubts patiently, as Francis Bacon once said. So I think my book reflects this sense of patience.
My poems also emanate from witness and wonder, poems about others’ struggles mingled with poems of praise. And I’m indebted to Sally Rosen Kindred who helped me see the patterns in the poems and figure out a way to put them together.
What genre does your book fall under? Poetry.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? You’re asking me to cast an actress to play myself, an impossible task! But if Brad Pitt wanted to play my husband, I wouldn’t object. 😉
When will it be released, and who is the publisher? Particular Scandals will be published in The Poiema Poetry Series by Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf & Stock Publishers in Eugene, Oregon. Poet D.S. Martin is the editor of the series, and it was a joy to work with him in the fall to prepare the manuscript for publication. The book was sent to press about a month ago, and it’s due out this spring (though if we encounter any delays, it could be summer or fall).
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? Four or five years. The oldest poem in the book dates back to about 2006, while the newest poem was written in 2012. Yet, I’d put the basic manuscript together in 2010 and then started sending it out. Once I began working with my editor, I added several newer poems.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? Anya Kurgovoy Silver’s The Ninety-Third Name of God, published in 2010, is a deeply moving book filled with poignant poems about how one lives—with joy and faith—despite a diagnosis of terminal cancer (perhaps even because of the diagnosis). Silver, a young wife and mother, has no reprieve from her diagnosis, and that, in addition to her originality and verbal dexterity, makes her poetry brave and beautiful.
I also think of Jane Kenyon’s magnificent books, including Otherwise and then her Collected Poems. And Donald Hall’s Without. I’m indebted to how such poets explore the endurance of agony experienced when, as one song says, “the sacred is torn from your life.”
I won’t pretend my poetry comes anywhere close to these brilliant poets’ work, but I hope my book in some small way contributes to their conversation.
Who or what inspired you to write this book? When Annie Dillard remarks on the “scandal of particularity” in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, which I read years ago, I wrote down her comment in one of my moleskines. Her insight was brief but powerful: Just like Christian theologians discuss how scandalous it was that God became man and walked among us in particular bodily form (not to mention the willing vulnerability of his infancy and his crucifixion), so, too, it is scandalous how specific our world is, that everything we encounter is exquisite in terms of yes, its particularity.
That comment became the framing mechanism and obviously provided the title for Particular Scandals—yes, indeed, pain is scandalous precisely because it’s particular. It doesn’t affect humanity in general; it affects individual bodies, a specific human being in a specific place, whether spine or organ, nerve or cell. Faith, too, is scandalous, embracing paradox the way it does. Lose your life to save it. Deny yourself to find fulfillment. Experience communion in solitude. Eat, drink—not to be merry and to forget but to remember, to confess. And the particular details that poetry can convey are likewise scandalous, shocking, jolting us out of our daily stupor induced by busyness. So, too, are the particularities of beauty (and brutality) in the natural world.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? Included in the book are a few poems that reflect on Christmas. For instance, in one poem, I write about Maggie, my incorrigible black Lab who eats ceramic animals from our crèche (not to mention a Bible!). So there also is some humor in the book, some comic relief, if you will. Poems from childhood when my sister, brother, and I would play in the Poconos, evading parental observation, or make a game out of killing bugs; one poem in the book’s final section about a farmer who one day tore down a road sign and sawed off a fence post (which appears earlier in the book, too, so try to find it!) just to plow his field; and a poem about a traffic jam in Yellowstone that landed me within an arm’s length of an American bison. Not to mention many birds flying through the pages. Killdeer. Turkey vultures. Black birds. Swallows. White-breasted Nuthatch. And the Mourning Dove “crooning / its Irish tune of lonesomeness and longing.”
Particular Scandals was also finalist for FutureCycle Press’s Poetry Book Prize in 2011 and a semi-finalist in both Perugia Press’s and Crab Orchard Review’s book award contests in 2011 and 2012 respectively. Such placements suggest the book’s poems have wide appeal. Some of those poems can be read online:
“Recovery” in The Missouri Review Online.
Julie L. Moore is the author of Particular Scandals, forthcoming in The Poiema Poetry Series by Cascade Books. Her other books include Slipping Out of Bloom (WordTech Editions) and Election Day (Finishing Line Press). A Best of the Net and two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, Moore has won the Editor’s Choice Award from Writecorner Press, the Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize from Ruminate, and the Rosine Offen Memorial Award from the Free Lunch Arts Alliance. Her poetry has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, American Poetry Journal, Atlanta Review, CALYX, Cimarron Review, The Missouri Review Online, The Southern Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and Verse Daily. You can learn more about her work at www.julielmoore.com or on her Facebook author page here https://www.facebook.com/JulieLMoorePoet.
Thank you, Julie, for sharing your next big thing with us. Julie hereby tags Barbara Crooker, Eric Paul Shaffer, and Anya Kurgovoy Silver. Stay tuned this week for thoughts on line and stanza, how to make an obsession packet, and the usual roundup on Friday (or Saturday… you know how it goes).